Shouldn’t You Be In School by Lemony Snicket (2015)
Lemony Snicket is back this third installment of the All the Wrong Questions series. He and Theodora S. Markson are out to solve who has been setting buildings ablaze all over the town of Stain’d by the Sea. Stain’d by the Sea’s only librarian, Dashiell Qwerty, is accused of being the arsonist and is set to depart for prison; Snicket thinks otherwise and joins up with his friends (Jake, Moxie, and Cleo) to solve the case.
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
What I liked: As in the previous books of this series, Theodora S. Markson rushes through solving the case, chases after “leads” that have not been fully investigated, and ends up declaring the case closed after it has barely been opened. Normally I find Theodora S. Markson’s incompetence to infuriating, but this time Lemony Snicket actually stands up to her. I was so pleased that Snicket could go about solving the case without Theodora S. Markson stalling his efforts.
The sarcasm, the banter, the word play–I loved it all. Honestly, it’s this that brings me back to each Lemony Snicket book.
More so than the two previous books of this series, Should’t You Be In School? is full of action. Many of the characters are back to help Snicket solve the case so little has to be done in the way of introductions. Without Theodora S. Markson by his side for most of the book, Snicket’s on his own and is able to lead his own style of investigation to solve the case.
What I didn’t like: Snicket uses a fragmentary plot in order to foil Hangfire in his latest string of crimes. This means Snicket’s friends are only aware of their individual parts while Snicket is the only one who knows how all the parts join up. Normally I love this style. However, when doing this, I find it more engaging when there’s a more detailed account of what each of the characters needs to do, or at the least when there’s a big reveal at the end. Snicket shared a more broad account which made the overall plot less stunning.
My opinion in summary: Shouldn’t You Be In School? is clearly the middle book of a series. While there are some subtle references to the previous two books, Lemony Snicket does not spend time “catching the reader up”. This books feels like any of Snicket’s other books with his dry humor and writing style, but there is more violence (and real violence at that–people really are getting hurt). This is a refreshing read from the previous books in the series in that Snicket gets to lead his own investigation and step out of his role as apprentice. Readers who have loved Snicket in the past will step right into this one as well.
Overall rating: 7 out of 10